Why it matters: Our national economy thrives in part because of the efforts to inter-connect the United States throughout its history. The ability to efficiently move goods and services across the country is a critical factor as to why the U.S. has been able to compete and thrive within the global marketplace.
Where I stand: As my colleagues and I on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee develop legislation to address our nation’s infrastructure needs, we are stressing to the administration that it is time to broaden the scope of traditional infrastructure investment.
The traditional three R’s of infrastructure must certainly be a major focus of the overall infrastructure plan. There are several reasons for us to invest seriously in our roads, rails and runways in the immediate future.
At the top of the list is safety. Some of our roads and bridges are actually beginning to crumble and deteriorate. We’ve employed temporary measures that have succeeded in repairing and rebuilding many of these deficiencies in the short term, but upgrading and enhancing them is a better and more cost-effective long-term solution. There is also an economic reason as well. The quality of a state’s infrastructure is near the top of the list of factors that business owners consider when deciding where to locate a business or enterprise.
However, we can’t lose sight of the fact that solutions to our infrastructure needs go well beyond the traditional focus. Fixing these problems often require innovative approaches, like the provision I authored in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 to help communities of all sizes, in every state, secure loans to modernize critical water infrastructure.
The need to expand the way we think about infrastructure is the reason I serve as a co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus. Our goal is to ensure that initiatives to promote the deployment of high-speed, reliable broadband for all Americans are included as part of our infrastructure agenda.
Our infrastructure needs can’t be a partisan issue. Now is the time to push ahead and make sensible, productive investments in our nation’s infrastructure. Doing so now will ultimately save money in the long-term. It will also help our economy grow and equip our country to remain competitive in the global economy in the years ahead.
What I've done: I've developed legislation to address our nation’s infrastructure needs.
Boozman championed an initiative to modernize water infrastructure investment, making it easier and more affordable for states to meet underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs. Boozman authored the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act to benefit communities throughout the country that are often unable to afford upgrades to their wastewater and drinking water systems. His legislation was included in a comprehensive water infrastructure bill signed into law by President Trump in 2018. His leadership will help towns and cities in Arkansas finance repairs or replacements to their water infrastructure.
Boozman has fought to strengthen waterway infrastructure, advocated for reforms to address our nation’s drinking water and supported agriculture water supply needs. He has played a vital role in the development of water policy during his tenure in Congress.
A 2015 economic impact analysis found the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) channelcontributes billions of dollars to the economy with $8.5 billion in sales, supporting nearly 5,600 jobs and $289 million in taxes. The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 signed into law by President Trump includes provisions authored by Boozman that benefit Arkansas including deepening of the MKARNS channel, levee safety improvements and the ability to enable inland waterway projects to be completed more quickly.
Boozman is uniquely positioned to help communities facing water issues. His work with the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) paved the way for a new Water Intake Facility for the city of Mountain Home. Boozman worked with the Corps to identify a cost-effective location that will provide citizens with a more reliable water supply.
Boozman authored a provision in the Fiscal Year 2017 funding bill that enables Arkansas to designate a portion of Highway 67, from North Little Rock to Walnut Ridge, as “Future I-57.” This is an important step to make Arkansas a better-connected state. The state has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to make Highway 67 an interstate-quality road. This provision provides the state the ability to request that any segment of the road that is built to interstate standards be officially added to the federal interstate system as “I-57.”
Boozman has advocated for increased resources for federal infrastructure grants and supported legislation that funds the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) ability to allocate grants to Arkansas. The Natural State has benefitted from federal grants including the Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) program that awarded $25 million for the construction of I-49 to connect Arkansas and Missouri, $20 million for the Hot Springs bypass extension, $10 million for improvements to U.S. highway 67 northeast of Little Rock and $4 million for the construction of a railroad overpass in Monticello. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program also invested $8.5 million to repair and rehabilitate three rail bridges in the Fort Smith area. The Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program awarded the Arkansas Department of Transportation $40 million to reconstruct and improve two sections of U.S. 67 northeast of Little Rock.
Boozman has been a longtime champion of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Contract Tower Program. This program benefits aviation safety by allowing small commercial service and general aviation airports to receive air traffic control services. There are five contract towers in Arkansas: Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and Texarkana. In the Fiscal Year 2021 funding bill, Boozman helped secure $173 million for this program.
In today’s world, broadband needs to be part of the infrastructure conversation. As founder and co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, Boozman has been leading efforts to close the existing digital divide. He has supported policies, funding and investments so all Arkansans can benefit from high-speed internet.
As a key voice in the development of the 2018 Farm Bill Boozman helped secure provisions in the bill that allow the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to leverage grants and loans with loan guarantees to fund projects that deploy high-speed broadband in rural America. Coupled with the December 2018 launch of USDA’s ReConnect Program to facilitate broadband deployment, the farm bill’s policy changes have increased opportunities for rural areas to get resources to bridge the digital divide. In the Fiscal Year 2020 funding bills, Boozman helped secure $635 million for the ReConnect Program. Arkansas has received millions of dollars from the program to improve access to broadband in across the state.